New York Yankees: ALCS Game 1 Grades—Sabathia Fails But Yankees Prevail
The New York Yankees won game one of the American League Championship Series 6-5, defeating the Texas Rangers at home in dramatic fashion.
After looking stymied by the pitching of CJ Wilson throughout the first seven innings, the Yankees staged a ferocious comeback, scoring five runs in the eighth inning to take the lead.
How did the Yankees perform? I've graded the performances of CC Sabathia and other contributing factors to the Yankees victory.
CC Sabathia: F
Failing one of the best starters in baseball is not an easy thing to do.
Yet not a lot of good came out of Sabathia's start.
The big left-hander lasted just 4.0 innings, giving up 6 hits, five walks, and five earned runs, while striking out three.
CC struggled from the get go: he seemed timid and unfocused on the mound, two adjectives that are rarely used to describe the 6'7, 290 lb former Cy Young winner.
Sabathia seemed to have problems repeating his delivery, and his control suffered mightily. His fastball was all over the place, missing high and away more often than not.
He even yielded a balk and came close to giving up a second.
The biggest thing you need from your starters in the playoffs, especially on a team like the Yankees, is an opportunity for the offense to win the game. Even if you don't have your best stuff, which Sabathia clearly did not have, finding a way to pitch out of jams and eat up some innings is a major plus.
Unfortunately, Sabathia was not able to find any groove and departed far earlier than most people expected he would.
It's hard to construe anything CC Sabathia did as positive. He's still a great pitcher, though, and should bounce back whenever his next start falls.
Yankee Bullpen: A
The Yankee bullpen did what Sabathia could not: keep the team in the game.
Four pitchers appeared in relief for the Yankees: Joba Chamberlain pitched the fifth, Dustin Moseley the sixth and seventh, Kerry Wood the eighth, and Mariano Rivera the ninth.
All in all, the four combined for five innings of shutout, one hit, two walk baseball, striking out six. They quietly impressed on the mound, keeping the Yankee offense in the game and giving them the opportunity to stage their eighth inning comeback.
It's hard to find fault with anything the bullpen did. It's unfortunate for the Yankees that they had to dip into the pen so early into the series, but a game one victory should help ease the burden.
Yankee Offense: B+
After seven innings of baseball, if I had to give the Yankees offense a grade, it would have probably been a D. The lone home run by Robinson Cano to lead off the seventh would have been the only thing keeping the Yankees from an F.
Through the first seven innings, CJ Wilson dominated the Yankees. They looked impatient at the plate, swinging at a lot of pitches, getting behind early, and not going deep into many counts. Through seven innings, Wilson had thrown 96 pitches, 63 of which were strikes (66%). He had also thrown 20 first pitch strikes to 26 batters faced. Needless to say, he was going through the Yankees lineup with ease.
But all that changed in the eighth. Brett Gardner lead off the eighth inning with an infield hit, exhibiting the spark that had been missing from the Yankees offense.
After giving up an RBI double to Derek Jeter after this, Wilson was bounced from the game. The lead was still 5-2 in favor of the Rangers.
Over the course of the inning, a series of implosions from the Rangers bullpen saw the Yankees bat around in the eighth; a total of five hits and two walks in the inning gave the Yankees a remarkable 6-5 lead, one that they would not relinquish.
This type of offensive surge shows how dangerous the Yankees offense is. They went from looking utterly confounded at the plate to being nearly unstoppable in almost a blink of an eye. Credit must be given where credit is deserved; the Yankees hitters never panicked and went about their business in a methodical manner, confident that the runs would come. Which they did.
Yankees Defense: B+
While the Yankees defense did not play a huge role in game one, they were, for the most part, reliable. Only one harmless error by Alex Rodriguez occurred in the sixth inning.
Both corner infielders were good; Teixiera and Rodriguez both made nice plays on hard hit balls. For the most part, nothing stuck out, which is what you want in a championship defense.
The one defensive play that turned the tide came in the eighth inning, when reliever Kerry Wood picked Ian Kinsler off of first base.
Kinsler had walked on four straight balls on the previous at bat to lead off the inning, but was caught dead in the water, leaning towards second.
Who know's what would have happened if Kinsler hadn't been picked off?
Yankees Managerial Decisions: B
Joe Girardi would never be accused of over managing game one, and for good reason. When you have a lineup like the Yankees, you should stick to it.
Girardi made great choices when it came to his bullpen. Chamberlain, Moseley, and Wood all were terrific in relief as they bridged the gap to Mariano Rivera.
Yet Girardi didn't make any one singular decision that could be viewed as a game changer; rather, he followed the established course of action hammered out through the long regular season.
It's hard to fully evaluate a managers contribution to a team's victory. As fans, we don't get to see the work ethic and strict preparation it takes to get a team ready for a game, nor do we get to see the tools managers use to keep their clubhouse motivated and ready to go.
Don't let the B grade fool you, Girardi is a great manager.
Overall Performance: A
The significance of a game one victory looms larger as Texas ace Cliff Lee's first appearance in the series has yet to occur. A loss would have put significantly more pressure on the Yankees to win in game two. There isn't a single team in baseball who would feel comfortable going up against Cliff Lee with an 0-2 deficit, even if it is at home.
The Yankees won without any semblance of a strong outing from the ace of their staff, and did so in dramatic fashion. The late inning rally and game one victory should be vital in establishing momentum going forward.